Agencies using the ISD model help clients do a better job in how they handle their money. The goal is for a family to examine their savings and spending habits to see if they can make positive changes that improve their credit scores and stabilize and grow their assets.

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Credit Building as Asset Building

This webinar goes through the basics of how credit ratings work and the importance of good credit for a low- or moderate-income client to save money and build assets. The discussion includes the specific steps to build credit, the definition of an active line of credit and how to help a client out of debt.
Video of Webinar | PowerPoint of Presentation

Informal Financial Tools

Informal financial tools, such as loans from friends and relatives, are more than a last resort for many households. In many cases, families use these tools alongside formal options like bank accounts and payday loans to meet their short-term and long-term financial needs. A report and video from research on this “invisible financial sector” explains what informal finance is, the benefits and costs of these tools, and the implications for financial services providers and policymakers.
Video | Research Brief


A new type of Roth IRA, myRA has been specifically designed by the U.S. Treasury to address many of the most common barriers to saving, such as fees and minimum initial contributions. There is no cost for workers to participate, and the program carries no risk of losing money. The Treasury has created a website and materials to explain and illustrate how mRA works.
More Information 

Guides to Help You Open and Manage Your Checking Account

This page on the website of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a basic guide to how to shop for and manage a checking account. Written for the consumer, it gives advice on different account options and how to respond if you’ve been denied an account, including PDF downloads for easy-to-use guides and links for more information.
Full Website
Selecting a lower-risk checking account
Sample letter to dispute inaccurate information with a bank or credit union
Sample letter to dispute inaccurate information with a checking account reporting company

Better Money Habits

Clear, simple videos, lists and graphics explain different aspects of 20 personal financial issues in this website from Bank of America and Khan Academy. Clients can learn basic information and useful details on topics from improving a credit score to buying a car to saving for retirement.

Meeting People Where They Are: Five Lessons for Integrating Financial Capability Services

This 2015 report from CFED highlights the lessons and successes from a learning cluster of ten community-based organizations from around the country that designed, implemented and evaluated projects to integrate financial capability services into existing programs for low-income clients. For each of the five lessons (e.g. understand which financial capability services are right for each client), the report includes a one-page summary and a few short case studies.

Guide to Student Loan Resources

Smart Scholar has created a page of links to help anyone figure out how to approach the cost of continuing education. Each section has four or five sites that give information on getting started, avoiding scams and predatory loans, payment options, saving, and repaying student loans.

Financial Coaching Leads to Long-Term Financial Stability

A federal policy proposal published by CFED, this short paper makes the case of how financial coaching helps low- and moderate-income households financial capability. It explains how financial coaching changes financial behaviors and why these programs require public support. Published in 2014, this paper includes extensive footnotes to back up its assertions.

Your Money, Your Goals

This section of the website of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a toolkit that social services organizations can use to help their clients set goals, choose financial products and build skills in managing money, credit, and debt. The page includes an English and Spanish PDF for the 278-page guide, which has 14 different modules ranging from starting the conversation to evaluating financial services providers. It also has links to materials and videos to help train case managers to use the program.

Financial Well-Being: The Goal of Financial Education

Finding that financial well-being has not been clearly defined, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has done the research to write this 47-page paper, which explores the basics of what it is and the specific types of knowledge, behavior, and personal traits that help people achieve greater financial well-being.

Building Financial Counseling into Social Service Delivery

This 2014 report from New York City Department of Consumer Affairs outlines the positive results from a pilot program at five social service agencies in the city to provide financial counseling to clients such as incarcerated adults, foster care children, young adult interns, young fathers, and workforce development clients. The report also includes key lessons for integrating financial counseling into a variety of social service contexts, such as the importance of thoughtfully and strategically introducing the issues to an organization’s clientele, strategic data collection, organizational commitment and ongoing training and technical assistance for the trainers.

Microcredit for Americans

Grameen America has made microloans to thousands of clients in the U.S. who do not qualify for credit cards or traditional bank loans. This New York Times article covers the benefits and limitations of the stateside version of the popular microcredit program that provides funds to small-bore entrepreneurs in developing countries.

In Search of Solid Ground

Microbusiness owners (with five or fewer employees) account for approximately 92% of all businesses and 26 million jobs in America, yet half of the owners have household median income below the U.S. average. “In Search of Solid Ground: Understanding the Financial Vulnerabilities of Microbusiness Owners,” a report by CFED, provides information on the financial capability, characteristics and needs of microbusiness owners.

Jobs Are Not Enough

This PowerPoint from a September 2013 presentation on LISC Financial Opportunity Centers starts with an overview of the importance of helping clients save and lower their expenses, and ends with a detailed breakdown of the importance of credit scores and how one product (LISC Twin Accounts) can help.

Alternative Credit and Secured vs. Prepaid Cards

This PowerPoint gives an overview of the Experian Rent Bureau, which is an alternative service for rental data, and explains how prepaid cards can be beneficial to clients. The detailed presentation from 2010 by the Credit Builders Alliance includes pros and cons and detailed examples.

Know Your Borrower: The Four Need Cases of Small-Dollar Credit Consumers

Unexpected expenses, misaligned cash flow, regular expenses that are more than income, and a planned purchase are  four reasons why borrowers turn to quick cash via “small-dollar credit” (SDC). A 2013 study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) reports on these factors and its extensive consumer research to examine the needs, decisions and experiences of SDC consumers, with the goal of promoting the development of high-quality SDC solutions.

Child Support and Credit Reports

This presentation explains the basics of how child support is determined and collected in Illinois and how it is reflected on a credit report, as well as how to help a client modify his or her child support. This PowerPoint by the Credit Builders Alliance is from 2010.

Center for Working Families Financial Coach Peer Gathering

This PowerPoint presentation from 2010 gives information on changes to the FCRA and FACT Act, including improvements the Accuracy and Integrity Rule and the Direct Dispute Rule, and on consumer education reports.

Credit Score Quiz

Test how well you understand how credit scores are generated and used with this 15-question quiz. The answers on page 2 are a useful summation of the basics of how credit scores work.

SparkPoint Financial Coaching Workbook

This workbook for students receiving financial counseling at the SparkPoint Skyline College office includes the basic tasks for eight modules, including setting financial goals, benefits eligibility and creating a budget. The book is designed to be used in conjunction with content provided during the coaching session, so the information is in outline form, but it does provide insight into the topics covered in each module by SparkPoint’s coaches.

Student Loan Borrower Assistance

The National Consumer Law Center’s Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project is a resource for borrowers, their families and advocates representing student loan borrowers. The website includes information on types of student loans, basic information like a glossary of common terms, advice on defaulting and other troubled situations, and useful tools, like these loan calculators (

Operated by the Aspen Institute, this website has a number of resources for helping low-income families build assets, including information about budgeting, saving, insurance, credit scores, debt and more. Note that you must register before browsing this free site.